India is a land of fairs and festivals and Kerala is no exception to this. Besides the major festivals that are celebrated across India, there are numerous local festivals that are highly observed in Kerala. Most of the festivals of Kerala are connected with local traditions and religions, and are crucial to the social and cultural structure. There are certain festivities like the boat races, which originated to commemorate religious events but subsequently turned out to be events of social importance.
One of the most important festivals of Kerala, Vishu is celebrated in the month of April. According to the old traditional Malayalam calendar, it is the 1st day of the New Year. The main event of the Vishu celebration is the 'Kani- Kanal'. Coconuts, fruits, cereals, and Konna flowers are kept in big pots to prepare Kani. Behind this pot, a mirror and a garlanded statue of Krishna are placed. Early morning on the Vishu day, the master of the house views the Kani, followed by the rest of the family. Children are brought blindfolded to see the Kani. The elders in the family hand over money to the youngsters and bless them. According to the local beliefs, if you see Kani, good luck will stay with you till the year end.
The Navratri celebration, that runs over 9 days, is known by different names in different parts of India. It is Durga Puja of Bengal, Dussehra of Bombay, and Saraswati Puja and Ayudha Puja of the south. The last three days of navratri, known as Durga Ashtami, Mahanavami, and Vijaya Dasami are the most important. On the night of Durga Ashtami day, a ceremony known as 'Puja Vayppu' is held, which involves decorating a room superbly, illuminating it with many lights and arranging on a platform, raised in the middle of the room - essential for performing Saraswati Puja. During the last three days of Puja, all sorts of learning and business come to a standstill.
Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, is the most important and popular festival of Kerala. It is celebrated with lots of fervor and gaiety. All Malayalis, irrespective of their religion, celebrate Onam. It falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug-Sept). According to legends, Onam is celebrated to commemorate the home coming of Mahabali, the king who ruled over Kerala in the age of plenty and was pushed down to the Patala by Lord Vishnu in the form of Vamana. The image of Thrikkakara Appan (Vishnu in the form of Vamana) is established in every Hindu home during the Onam celebration. Children go around collecting flowers and decorating them in the front portion of their houses in different designs and patterns. Onam festival is an example of religious harmony and provides for family get-togethers.
Maha Shivratri is an important festival of Hindus and is celebrated in Kumbam (Feb-March). This festival commemorates the day on which Lord Shiva consumed the deadly poison (Kalakuda visham) to save the world from destruction. On Maha Shivratri day, people throng all the prominent Shiva temples to offer their prayers to lord Shiva.
Asthami Rohini, the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great fervor in the state of Kerala. It is observed in the month of Chingam (Aug- Sept). Devotees visit the Krishna temples to offer Puja and prayers. The occasion is marked by organizing many cultural programs across the state of Kerala.
Thrikarthika is a festival celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Subramanya. Also known as the festival of lights, this occasion is celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (Nov-Dec). It usually falls on the full moon day of the month and is marked by the unique display of lights in the evening across houses, temples, and streets.
Christmas is an important festival of Kerala. Christians and people belonging to other religions, all over Kerala, celebrate Christmas on 25th December. During Christmas, the holy Mass is held in all churches of Kerala. Singing of Christmas carols, setting up of the Christmas tree, exchanging of cards and gifts, etc. form an integral part of Christmas festivities in Kerala.
Easter is another important festival of Christians, which commemorates the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ. It is mostly celebrated with fervor and dedication by the Christian community of Kerala. Easter generally falls in the months of March-April. During Easter celebrations, Christians visit churches for mid-night mass as a memory of the resurrection of Lord Jesus.
Bakrid commemorates the sacrifice of Ibrahim in obedience to God's command and is considered an important festival of Kerala. Muslims enjoy hearty feasts on Bakrid day. Many people sacrifice goats and distribute them amongst friends, relatives, and the poor, to mark the occasion.
Eid ul-Fitr, or Eid, is celebrated after the conclusion of the Ramzan fast when Muslims give up all kinds of food and drinks during the day, and spend major part of the night in prayers. Since Kerala has a substantial population of Muslims, Eid ul-Fitr forms one of the most important festivals of Kerala.
Miladi Sharif, celebrated on a large scale in April, commemorates the birth of Prophet Mohammad. This celebration has acquired its present dimensions only in the recent times. Previously, this day was observed by Muslims by reading what is commonly known as Maulud, a short treatise in Arabic celebrating the birth, life, work, and sayings of Prophet Mohammad.
Muharram is another festival celebrated by Muslims of Kerala on the 10th day of Muharram, the forbidden month, which marks the beginning of the Hijra year.